Greatness Blog – by Isabel Benjumea

A journey through Spain’s Rich Culture and Sublime Cuisine

I wanted to start my first post by wishing you all a Very Happy New Year. 2015 is a great year to awaken your taste buds in the land of El Bulli and Cervantes for the ultimate culinary experience and cultural adventure.

According to Restaurant Magazine’s poll of international chefs, restaurateurs, gourmands and restaurant critics, three out of the best eight restaurants in the world are located on Spanish soil.

On their 2014 edition, the second place has been bestowed to El Celler de Can Roca, a Catalan family restaurant offering Modern Spanish cuisine; the sixth place has been granted to Mugaritz with its techno-emotional Spanish cuisine; and the eighth place has been awarded to Arzak, a family-run San Sebastián restaurant skilled in cutting-edge Basque cuisine. Curated as a culinary experience like no other, this exceptional journey will take you to all three.

Stay on the grounds of La Alhambra in picturesque Granada; visit the Guggenheim and Chillida Museums in the Basque Country; and tour Gaudi’s works in Barcelona. Complete the experience by relishing in a rare caviar tasting at Europe’s first organic caviar producing sturgeon farm in Granada to touring a local market in San Sebastián ushered by a renowned chef who will then organize a cooking party.

El Celler de Can Roca

El Celler de Can Roca

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The Camellia Route: “Pazos” and Gardens full with history

It is unknown whether Marco Polo brought camellias as a souvenir from China. If he did so, he unknowingly pioneered the first pilgrim camellia that found a home in the aristocratic gardens of the Galician “Pazos”.

The English and Dutch were applied to study with enthusiasm the properties of the leaves, and in the mean time the discarded flowers arrived in their ships to London and Lisbon. And from there, renamed as camellias in honor of a Jesuit missionary, arrived to Galicia.

Centuries later the only route in Europe dedicated to discover the more than 8,000 varieties of camellias, housed in streets and squares of the towns of Galicia, was created. A journey from garden to garden, from pazo to pazo, that gives light to the landscape and soul of Galicia.

Our proposal takes us through this evocative journey from northern to southern Galicia through manors and gardens where the varieties of Camellia reign in their entire splendor. As examples, the “Camellia reticulata” found in the impressive Pazo de Oca, is perhaps the oldest in Europe. Or the Camellias at Pazo de la Saleta, brought by an Englishman in 1968 and that perfectly adapted to the environment.

Finally, at Pazo del Sar, we will enjoy a nineteenth century French garden in perfect condition. The old vineyards surrounded by more than 50 species of fruit trees bring us back lost flavors.

Pazos and landscapes in an elegant decadence, authentic bothanical gardens created with care and wisdom that will discover you their beauty secrets.

Garden tours in Spain

Pazo del Sar, La Coruña, Galicia

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Wandering into the Spanish Countryside: Castilla

Unspoiled nature, enchanting neighboring towns, quiet panoramic roads, excellent food and wine: these are just a few attractions the Spanish Countryside offers discerning visitors in addition to its rich culture, art, traditions, and history. To visit Castilla’s countryside is a total experience of body and soul unlike any other.

Tucked away in the heart of the Castilian Meseta you can find properties such as the stunning Castilla Country House in Ciudad Real or La Encomienda near the beautiful town of Chinchón. Both estates are surrounded by breathtaking views of holm oaks and pine trees. It is authentic rural Spain, a gem truly unknown to most visitors to Spain. Inside, rustic countryside decoration and contemporary luxury blend to transmit the most comfortable atmosphere.

Spanish countryside

Lunch at Castilla Country House

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Introducing The Bespoke Travel Club

This month of July I am proud to announce our recent acceptance into The Bespoke Travel Club.

The Bespoke Travel Club is a consortium of small luxury travel specialists providing a tailored travel service for discerning clients to a wide range of international travel destinations.

The Club is a one stop portal for high end travellers looking for the very best companies out there. We want you to consider The Bespoke Travel Club as your first port of call, whether you are seeking a Scottish castle for your 50th Birthday, a Greek estate for your summer holiday, some hard to find London theatre tickets, a family safari across Africa, travel itinerary for Asia and Arabia or specialist Eastern Europe destination, private jet to Europe or an exclusive chalet for your family ski holiday.

I encourage you to discover its members and all they have to offer.

Bespoke Travel Club

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An untapped destination for fly fishing in Spain: Cantabria

It’s not surprising that fly-fishing has become an obsession for many, as the sport allows you to have an intimate contact with some of the world’s most untouched regions. Great lodging near prime fishing spots, the sustainable and bloodless practice of catch-and-release, the intrigue of the hunt, and the in-depth instruction now being offered have all contributed to the great popularity of the sport. Some consider fly-fishing an intellectual exercise, others pure physical enjoyment. All who try the sport, however, seem to agree that few experiences can match presenting the fly to the fish, which then values the effort by picking the bait.

It is true that many foreign anglers know about fly fishing in Spain through the popularity of the Pyrenees, and really they are spectacular, but there is much more to be discovered across the country, as far south as Andalusia.

Cantabria is also an undiscovered destination for many, rewarding and beautiful, you can fish from trout, atlantic salmon or sea trout to carp, barbel, wels catfish, pike, bass, bonito, bluefish, tuna and even white marlin. High mountain rivers nestled in natural landscapes of great beauty witnesses to really a important cultural past, where the Romanesque and Gothic arts take on a special role, and some of these rivers are also crossed by the famous St. James Pilgrim’s Way.

The luxury of a traditional Spanish property can be combined with some of the best fly fishing hand in hand with the best local experts like José H Welgand, a true professional in every aspect of angling. Castillo de Caldas or Palacio de los Hornillos, are dream places to stay at while enjoying the sport. Taking time to learn and explore this northern region is a must.

Fly fishing in Spain

Castillo de Caldas, Cantabria

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A personal view on incentive travel

All kind of literature has been written around incentives. In my point of view, monetary bonuses come and go while experience incentive travel programs are there to stay in the memory of your stakeholders. They are much more than simple rewards for top clients and performers. They are a benefit to the company that helps to promote revenue growth, customer acquisition, and employee and client retention.

Both in individual or group rewards, immersing into the local culture turns it from a trip into a journey of experience.  The local component adds authenticity, interest and most importantly emotion. It is this emotional element that makes the trip endure long.

My first example of such a reward is an eye-opening trip through The Culture of Wine along the Duero River: Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Porto are the regions to discover. It is a journey through Spain and Portugal, an interesting way of getting to know two cultures around wine, with a common denominator, the Douro River, combining the best wine and food activities with other more active proposals.

Another option is a singular Galician Route from North to South. A journey of great authenticity to learn about the wealth of this region that will take us to the Rias Altas and the Rias Baixas. An opportunity to discover a thousand year old light houses, glance at some of the highest cliffs in Europe, taste Albariño in world-known wineries, sail the Miño river on a private boat in the Ribeira Sacra or in a classic sail boat around the clear waters of the Cíes Islands.

The key is to design a trip to enjoy, to feel and to share with the most valued clients or employees.

Incentive Travel Spain

Ribeira Sacra, Galicia

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Bespoke Spanish Holidays

With spring finally settling in, summer is just around the corner. With perfect temperature, summer is the ideal season to experience the good life first-hand in Spain. Vacations filled with food, wine and the irresistible Spanish culture and charm.

With idyllic beaches and infinite hidden gems, the Balearic island of Ibiza offers much more than hedonistic crazy nights.  Our romantic property, Ibiza Country House, is an ideal spot to explore undeveloped coves together with unspoiled inland villages and the wild and beautiful countryside.

The picturesque town of Manilva, in the most exclusive Costa del Sol, is our hidden treasure to fall for the authentic charm of the white wash villages surrounded by vineyards and olive trees. Here lies our latest addition, the charming Molino del Duque House, just the right spot to relax and enjoy the long summer nights with your loved ones. With some of the best golf courses in Europe and the world, the area is resplendent with lush green countryside offering an idyllic retreat to the local culture, wildlife and golfers alike.

Bespoke Spanish Holidays

Molino del Duque, Manilva

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For golf lovers

With an extraordinary climate, Spain is the number one golf destination in Europe with award-winning resorts across the whole territory.

With more than 45 courses, Costa del Sol is indeed a golfer’s paradise. My favorite top Courses include 1997 Ryder Cup Venue, Valderrama Golf, the Volvo World Match Play Championship course for three years in a row, Finca Cortesin, or Real Club Sotogrande that commonly ranks in Europe’s top ten. The Greve Villa is a unique property close to the golf clubs and the perfect base to enjoy the cosmopolitan life of Sotogrande.

In the North of Spain, you can find familiar favorites such as the Pedreña golf course, the homeland of the legendary Severiano Ballesteros. It is situated in one of the most beautiful regions Cantabria between pinewood forests and with magnificent views of the bay of Santander. For its location, panorama and aesthetic, Pedreña is one of a kind. To round up a great experience discovering the north, I recommend staying at the exclusive Los Hornillos Palace, the mansion where Alejandro Amenábar filmed “The Others” with Nicole Kidman in 2001.

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How to experience fully Seville’s Holy Week

Only the ones who have had the chance to experience Holy Week in Spain, know what I’m talking about. Spain is a country completely transformed during “Semana Santa”.  Holy week is one the most spectacular religious events in the country and is celebrated with a great deal of emotion.

Art, culture and religion are blended together to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. All day and night the streets are filled with the beat of the drums, masses of colorful flowers, and the consummate art of religious sculpture, all combining to produce a highly moving atmosphere.

From the splendid balcony of El Atico Dos Fuentes you will have the most privileged view of the processions passing through the official section while surrounded by the scent of orange blossom. It is indeed a unique place to fully experience and appreciate the events of Holy Week reserved for the most special guests.

Marquesa de Tenorio Palace, located in the historic neighborhood of Santa Cruz, is an unbeatable location to stay at while enjoying the festivities of Holy Week. Book in advance.

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